The 5 Most Important SEO Strategies To Dominate Your Competition in 2014
In the world of search engine optimization, one thing is certain: the more things change, the more they stay the same.
The SEO landscape has shifted more in the past two years than most industries change in fifty. As a business owner or entrepreneur, you may wonder how it's possible to keep up; not to mention outrank your competitors. A few things have remained the same (deliver quality content), but the techniques and methods responsible for actually gaining (and keeping!) top organic rankings have morphed into something else entirely.
Gone are the days of simply tweaking a few keywords or meta tags. The complex algorithms that are today’s search engines, namely Google, consist of hundreds of different ranking factors. Things like domain authority & age, PageRank, unique content, backlink diversity/quality/velocity, social signals, branding, citations, the list goes on and on. It's enough to make your head spin.
Today we are going to point out the 5 most important SEO techniques to focus on in 2014. Yes, there are technically hundreds of ranking factors that do influence where you stack up against the competition, but if you primarily concentrate on the few that deliver maximum impact you'll be ahead of the game. This list primarily targets Google's search index because, let's face it, they're the 800lb. gorilla (owning roughly 70% of search marketshare). If you get it right, top rankings in Bing/Yahoo should follow suit.
Our recommendations: (in no particular order of importance)
Structured data / rich snippets (including authorship)
Link diversity & relevance
A few honorable mentions would include- responsive website design, quality content, top-notch optimization (technical SEO), compelling offers / calls-to-action, “clean” code, etc. However, in 2014, these should all be a given! If you don't have your on-site factors ready for action, you're facing an uphill battle that extra traffic simply won't solve.
Now, let's elaborate on the top 5 areas of opportunity.
1. Branding. This may seem a bit vague or general, but Google has been showing an ever-increasing tendency to favor (and rank) brand names. Instead of using an exact-match domain name (EMD), opt for something short/catchy/unique, or simply your business name. You can increase brand recognition and awareness many different ways, including social media, branded backlinks, images/logos/infographics, videos, etc. The trend toward ranking brands over generic domains is only growing, so get on the bandwagon now, before your competitors.
2. User-engagement. This is another big one in Google's algorithm. Things like average time-on-site, bounce rate, number of pages visited, etc., tell the search engines whether or not you have a good website that people enjoy. They want to show their searchers sites that best match the search query, so if people only stay on your website for 5 seconds and then go back to the search page, your rankings will take a dive. The lesson here: ensure that your on-page content delivers exactly what the searchers are looking for, and offer extras to keep them on your site + promote social sharing.
3. Structured data / rich snippets. There is some debate whether this matters or not, but when the big three search engines (Google, Yahoo!, Bing) get together to create a new standard markup (schema.org), you should probably take notice. In a nutshell, structured data is “behind the scenes” code that tells search engines exactly what each page is about. It also enhances your listings in the search engine results pages. Ever notice the reviews, recipes, movie listings, or Google+ authors? Those are all rich snippets. If you're not implementing them, start now. At the very least, begin building up your Google+ profile and sync it with your website.
4. Link diversity & relevance. Of every possible topic or aspect surrounding SEO, nothing garners more attention and controversy than link building. Especially since April of 2012, when Google unleashed its notorious Penguin algorithm update. This article could be entirely dedicated to just this topic, but the main point here is to ensure your backlink profile looks as natural as possible. Quality incoming links from VERY diverse and relevant sources. Do not outsource this to questionable SEO companies that may implement spammy tactics. They may work short term, but you'll eventually get penalized.
5. Social signals. Facebook. Twitter. Google+. LinkedIn. Pinterest. All of these social network sites (and many others) impact your organic search rankings, if properly leveraged. Google still publicly denies that they use social signals as ranking factors, but this is because they don't want unscrupulous SEOs abusing yet another technique. However, there are countless case studies published that prove, without question, social does matter. And it makes perfect sense. Websites that get more Likes, Tweets, Shares, +1's, Pins, followers, etc., are clearly more popular than sites that sit there stagnant. The search engines see this and then factor it in. Long story short: implement the ability for your site visitors to share via the popular networking sites, and encourage it.
Employing the above techniques may seem daunting, but if you already have an in-house SEO, or outsource to an agency, ensure that they are incorporating all of these strategies. For qualified and competent SEO professionals, this list should be nothing more than a good refresher.
Outranking (and dominating) your online competition in 2014 simply comes down to winning the ongoing SEO battles. Nothing delivers a higher ROI than a top ranked website bringing in hoards of targeted, organic traffic.
Written by Bill Zientek,
Owner of Chicago-based ElánSEO